Only 1 in 3 Families Has a Joint Bank Account. Should You?

One of the first financial decisions you might face as a newly married or committed couple is whether to open a joint bank account or not. And it’s a decision that definitely warrants a good amount of thought.

Recent data from Empower finds that 30% of families say they have a joint bank account rather than separate accounts. If you’re not sure whether a joint bank account makes sense for you, here are some benefits and drawbacks to consider.

Pro No. 1: You might have an easier time managing joint expenses

You and your spouse or partner may have a host of expenses you share jointly, from smaller bills like cable to larger bills like the mortgage you recently signed. The upside of having a joint bank account is that you might have an easier time following your household budget and tracking and managing your expenses.

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Pro No. 2: You can work together toward shared goals

Maybe you and your partner don’t own a home yet, but are saving for one. Or maybe you’re socking money away for another goal, like being able to renovate your kitchen or finish your basement. If you have your money in a joint account, that could make it easier to work toward financial goals like these.

Pro No. 3: There’s more transparency about your spending

When you and your spouse or partner have all of your money landing in a joint account, you can see exactly how much each of you is spending. You won’t have to wonder exactly what your partner spent on their weekend getaway with friends because you’ll see those debits right there in your account. Of course, that has the potential to backfire, too…

Con No. 1: You may be more likely to get into arguments over finances

When you share a joint bank account, you have the ability to review every single transaction in it. That could be a good thing, but also a bad one. If you and your partner don’t spend in similar ways, arguments could erupt due to one person taking withdrawals more often than the other. You might also start to constantly question one another’s leisure spending, which could make for a pretty miserable existence.

Con No. 2: There may be bitterness if your joint account isn’t being funded equally

It’s not a given that romantic partners will earn comparable wages. If there’s a big gap in income between you and your partner, it could lead to feelings of bitterness and resentment that one of you is contributing more to your shared account than the other — even if it’s not necessarily the lower earner’s fault that their wages aren’t as high.

Con No. 3: You might feel guilty dipping into cash reserves that aren’t just yours

When you share a bank account, you’re accountable for the money you pull out of it. Even if your partner has no problem with you withdrawing $40 for takeout lunch or $80 for a night out with your friends, you might feel guilty for tapping your joint cash reserves — especially if that money is coming out of a joint savings account, as opposed to a checking account.

Is a joint bank account right for you?

If you’re not sure whether opening a joint bank account is the best route to take, talk things through with your spouse or partner. Voice your concerns, but also discuss the benefits of having your finances combined in that manner.

One option you should consider is maintaining a joint bank account for shared expenses and goals, but also having some of your money in separate accounts. That way, you’re contributing jointly toward bills and financial objectives, but you’re retaining some cash that you have more freedom with. It could be a good solution if you’re worried that putting all of your money into a joint bank account will lead to conflict.

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